Bracing For Rita

As post-Katrina cleanup continued in the Gulf States, a possibly even more powerful Hurricane Rita bore down on the region at press time, threatening virtually all Texas venues and events from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana state line, and as far inland as Austin.

Basically, all shows in the Texas Gulf Coast region were no-goes through September 25th.

Clear Channel Communications’ main offices in Houston were reportedly being evacuated at press time.

The effects of Rita were expected to reach deep into the Lone Star State, and a new round of evacuees hit the highways leading to Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, where hotels were reported to already be solidly booked in advance of the September 23-25 Austin City Limits Festival.

Neither ACL producer Charles Attal of Charles Attal Presents nor his staff could be reached at press time. Voice mail messages indicated they were already on the festival site.

The day before the first acts were to roll out on the Zilker Park stages, a message on the festival’s Web site indicated the show was still on.

“Just like you, we are keeping a very close watch on the weather and are being advised by meteorologists,” the message read. “If weather conditions appear to present any kind of danger to fans, musicians or crew, we are prepared to make the necessary adjustments to maintain safety.”

The massive festival was for a time directly in the crosshairs of Rita, according to weather trackers. At press time, the onetime Category 5 hurricane was predicted to take a more northerly track, away from Austin but still close enough to potentially drop a tremendous amount of rain on the festivities.

Meanwhile, New Orleans braced for a glancing blow from the new storm, even as relief efforts and fund-raising endeavors continued to resurrect the Crescent City a few weeks after Katrina hit.

The Voodoo Music Experience, originally scheduled at New Orleans’ City Park on Halloween weekend, announced it was moving to Tom Lee Park in Memphis on the same dates and would benefit the New Orleans Restoration Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

“Since our home base is New Orleans, it’s been an especially difficult time for us, with staff losing homes and offices, and some of them losing everything,” said Voodoo founder and producer Stephen Rehage.

Former New Orleans resident Trent Reznor affirmed his commitment that Nine Inch Nails will headline the event.

“It means a lot to me that the Voodoo Music Experience is continuing on and I look forward to being a part of this amazing New Orleans tradition,” Reznor said. “It’s great that other cities have opened their doors to this year’s event, and the New Orleans spirit will definitely remain in the air – that’s something the floods cannot wash away.”

Also in Memphis, New Orleans-based Beaver Productions turned its October 7th Black Crowes / Drive-By Truckers show at Mud Island River Park Amphitheatre into a benefit for Katrina victims.

And in one unique way of showing support, Arlo Guthrie – who had a ’70s hit with “The City of New Orleans” – announced a whistlestop train tour from Chicago to the Big Easy in December.

“Christmas on the City of New Orleans with Arlo Guthrie and Friends” will travel Amtrak’s own “City of New Orleans” line, stopping for performances at train stations and small venues along the way December 5-17, the singer announced in an “open letter.”

Guthrie will collect and deliver professional music gear to artists in New Orleans who may have lost their equipment in the Katrina disaster.

“Working together with our friends in manufacturing, retail, transportation, the venues, the promoters, the press, the agents and the managers and the artists, we can help deliver the stuff that helps make New Orleans sing its own uniquely American song,” Guthrie wrote on his Web site.